(CHULA VISTA)--It was unchartered territory for state #1-ranked Irvine Valley, and it was happening against the last team that handed the Lasers a defeat - state defending champion American River. Forced to a fifth set for the first time all year, IVC passed its first real test of an undefeated season, defeating the Beavers, 25-19, 23-25, 25-23, 18-25, 15-12 in the quarterfinals of the CCCAA Women's Volleyball State Championship tournament.
South #1 Irvine Valley (26-0) avenged last year's state semifinal defeat but were challenged by North #4 seed ARC (24-8), the first team all year to win two sets vs. the Lasers.
After both teams split the first two sets, Irvine Valley fell behind, 5-1, and then, 10-6, in set 3. Then the Lasers had perhaps their most important stretch of the match, outscoring ARC, 18-10. While American River fought off three set points, sophomore outside hitter Gabriela Griego finished off the set with a sharp kill through two blockers. The 2-1 sets lead gave Irvine Valley the advantage it needed.
The Beavers roared back in the fourth set, taking a 16-8 lead and running away to tie the match.
In the fifth, IVC kept its poise and raced to an 11-3 lead. Sophomore outside hitter Alaina Gendale had four kills and the Lasers placed it at match point, 14-9. Once again, ARC wouldn't quit and delivered three straight points, the last on a block by Andreia Keane and Danica Mindard. But after a timeout, it was setter Truth Hafey Truth Hafey delivering her 53rd assist as sophomore outside hitter Lea Kruse slammed match point and a ticket for Irvine Valley into the semifinals.
Kruse finished with 16 kills and 16 digs while Gendale had 12 kills and 11 digs. Griego scored nine kills and five blocks while sophomore libero Anna Unke was a defensive wizard with 25 digs.
For American River, Zoe Zimmerman was spectacular on 16 kills (.375, one error in 40 attempts) and five blocks while Keane put on an all-around show with 14 kills, 20 digs and outstanding passing. Another defensive talent was Marissa Plaza who tallied 31 digs. Allison Linder added 16 kills and 12 digs. ARC won the statistical battle with 85 digs (75 for IVC) and outhit the state's top hitting team, .185 to .150.
"I would argue we have the best defensive team in the state," said American River head coach Carson Lowden. "Dreia has been the glue of that defense and the player that has driven us this season. I really felt that this match could have gone either way. When we won state last year, it was an entirely different journey than this one to the state tourney. I'm very pleased with what we've accomplished as a program these past two seasons."
American River started out 2-4 but won 18 of its final 20 matches. However, the Beavers went 3-4 in 5-set matches.
Release by Robert Lewis, CCCWVCA SID